Presidential Snapshot in Time (May 15, 2020)

by Bradley Wascher May 15, 2020 · 9:17 AM EDT

As parts of the country begin to reopen — and rapper Nicki Minaj scores her first number-one song on the Billboard charts — the race for president has barely changed over the past two weeks. 

This Presidential Snapshot in Time series seeks to understand the polling trends driving the 2020 election. By putting state- and national-level surveys in this broader context, a clearer image emerges of the current electoral landscape.  

In an average of national polls with field dates from May 1 through May 15, Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by 5.5 points (47.9 percent to 42.4 percent). Comparatively, across surveys conducted from April 16 to April 30, Biden’s average advantage was a slightly higher 6.8 points (48.7 percent to 42.1 percent).

Simply going off margins, it would appear the president is gaining and the former vice president is falling. But it’s important to look at the broader trends and remember that this two-candidate race has been remarkably consistent:

  • One month ago (April 15, 2020), Biden was ahead by 5.5 points (47.3  – 41.8)
  • Three months ago (February 15, 2020), Biden was ahead by 5.6 points (50.1 – 44.5)
  • Six months ago (November 15, 2019), Biden was ahead by 10.2 points (52.3 – 42.1)
  • One year ago (May 15, 2019), Biden was ahead by 7.8 points (47.8 – 40)

In other words, the snapshot of the past two weeks falls in line with the bigger picture.

By contrast, the drought of state-level polls unsurprisingly and unfortunately continues into May. Across the six states currently rated Toss-Up or Tilting by Inside Elections — Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — only two new polls have been released since the beginning of this month.

A Marquette University Law School survey of Wisconsin, conducted May 3-7, found Joe Biden ahead of President Donald Trump by 3 points (46 percent to 43 percent). This is consistent with RealClearPolitics averages: prior to the Marquette University survey, Biden’s mean polling lead in Wisconsin was 2.7 points. The state remains close, with a slight-yet-consistent advantage for the former vice president. 

A Daily Kos/Civiqs (D) survey of North Carolina, conducted May 2-4, also found Biden ahead by 3 points (49 percent to 46 percent). Before this poll, North Carolina was the only Toss-Up or Tilting state in which Trump led Biden in polling aggregates — the president’s previous margin of 0.3 points underscores just how competitive North Carolina will be in November.

Yet as the campaign evolves, so too does the list of battlegrounds to watch: new polls from close states will inevitably expand the discussion past this initial handful.

In that spirit, a pair of recent surveys suggest the margin in Georgia, currently rated Lean Republican by Inside Elections, is tighter than ever. The latest poll of the Southern state, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (R) over May 4-7, found Biden one point ahead of Trump (46 percent to 45 percent). This competitiveness reflects in toplines late last month from Cyngal; their April 25-27 results determined a one-point advantage for Trump (45 percent to 44 percent). 

Also home to key races for House and Senate, Georgia deserves top-shelf focus this election cycle. After all, even if those 16 electoral votes don’t end up in the Democrats’ column come November, there’s reason to believe the president could underperform his five-point Georgia victory over Hillary Clinton four years earlier.